Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Is USC's Schedule Really Harder?

On ESPN radio this morning, I heard a short piece by a commentator who said that if Florida and USC were to both end up with one loss, USC should get the nod to play Ohio State based on their “out of conference schedule”. This individual (whose name I forget) went on to berate Florida for playing a soft out of conference schedule, while USC scheduled tough out of conference games.

What does this matter, thought I, if your conference schedule is so easy that you essentially have to schedule tough teams in order to have a credible strength of schedule? Or, conversely if you SEC schedule is so tough that you need easier out of conference games?

I decided to do a match-up of schedules – ignoring whether a team was in or out of conference, and just comparing, on a team by team basis, who had the better records and BCS rankings. In this effort, I sought to compare teams of comparable records and/or rankings (obviously Arkansas is a common opponent). The following is that effort –

1. 6th ranked Arkansas (10-1) versus 6th ranked Arkansas (10-1) – obviously, Arkansas’ only loss was to USC, so we will need a very credible effort in the SEC championship if we are to compare here. But much of USC’s argument has centered around their victory in this game – a argument UF can neutralize with a good effort.

2. 12th ranked Auburn (10-2) versus 5th ranked Notre Dame (10-1) – if USC is to have any chance of playing Ohio State, they have to beat ND. When that happens, ND will, like Auburn, be 10-2 and similarly ranked.

3. 10th ranked LSU (9-2) versus 22nd ranked Nebraska (8-3) - LSU plays Arkansas this week, and someone is getting a loss. Even if LSU loses, I can’t see them falling farther than 22nd. Nebraska should beat Colorado for their 9th win this weekend. Both teams likely end the year at 9-3.

4. 20th ranked Tennessee (8-3) versus 19th ranked Cal (8-3). Two very similar teams in ranking and record, but for the fact UT whipped Cal 35-18. Cal plays Stanford this weekend for the sure win, and UT should beat UK, so both will end at 9-3 in all likelihood.

The remaining match-ups are all unranked in the BCS.

5. Georgia (7-4) versus Oregon (7-4)

6. Kentucky (7-4) versus Oregon State (7-4)

7. Southern Miss (7-4) versus Washington State (6-6)

8. Alabama (6-6) versus UCLA (6-5)

9. South Carolina (6-5) versus Arizona (6-5)

10. Florida State (6-5) versus Arizona State (6-5)

11. Vanderbilt (4-8) versus Washington (5-7)

12. UCF (3-8) versus Stanford (1-10)

13. Western Carolina (2-9) versus Nobody

It is impossible, on its face, to say USC’s schedule was so much tougher than Florida’s. We both play Arkansas, so no advantage there. Going down the list, we have played teams with similar records and rankings all across the board. When you look at the teams by match-up, it is impossible to say, in most instances, who would win were they to play. Georgia verses Oregon – your guess is as good as mine. However, in one instance, we know what happened – Tennessee killed Cal. So what is there to really differentiate the teams?

Well, Florida is getting a lot of criticism for playing Western Carolina. But USC, without a conference title game, only plays 12 games to our 13. So what is the difference if we played and handily won an extra game against an overmatched opponent? It shouldn’t count against us, as USC has no comparable game.

So, the growing myth that USC has somehow played a significantly harder schedule should be put to rest. The Trojans play Notre Dame, sure, but we played Auburn at Auburn. USC got the big win at Arkansas, and we will have to play them at a neutral site. If anything, there is something as close as I can conceive to a tie here in strength of schedule.

So what should be the difference?

The losses baby, that’s what. Florida lost to Auburn at Auburn, so Florida’s one loss was to essentially the 2nd best team on their schedule. USC lost to Oregon State on the road, but Oregon State is probably the 5th or 6th best team they faced. It is the equivalent of Florida losing to Kentucky.

I guarantee that had Florida pulled out the win at Auburn, and lost to Kentucky, we wouldn’t even be in the BCS title game discussion. But USC is in that discussion, for a loss that should disqualify them.

But there USC stands, at number 3, in the BCS poll. And as long as they continue to get undue amounts of attention from a southern California loving media, Florida may not get a shot at Ohio State, regardless of the four games the teams have remaining.

But if anyone tells you it is because USC’s schedule is so much harder than Florida’s, they are either lying or willfully ignorant.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You're right. It all comes down to the SEC championship against Arkansas (and USC vs. ND).

The way I see it:

~ Michigan needs both USC and UF to lose.

~ USC needs to beat ND, and UF to lose.

~ UF needs to beat Arkansas big or squeak by Arkansas and USC loses.

~ ND should really have no chance to skip over Michigan.

To me, Florida seems most in control of their destiny.